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The rise of the free e-book

Updated on May 4, 2016

E-book formats

You don't even need a reader to download an e-book these days with a choice of apps for android tablets or for a mac. The most popular are kindle, nook and kobo, allowing you to download books to your laptop or desktop.

There are several formats you can choose to download from; PDF, EPUB, DOC, PDB, HTML and TXT are the most popular ones and easier to download. Many also allow you to store them in your dropbox, google drive or in your cloud storage. Look at the options as some may take up more space. A downloaded book as a PDF will take 1.5 MB, EPUB 279 kb,HTML 803 kb and kindle 1.1MB. (All based on Pride and Prejudice on Project Gutenberg)

E-books or physical books?

The increasing popularity of e-books has revolutionized the publishing industry. The debate remains whether it is a threat to the physical book, where hardcore readers are loyal to their books as e-book readers build up their libraries.

E-books have become cheaper and more accessible as many are now free or at a fraction of the cost of the physical book. You can even download books from your local library or borrow them from a friend.

Where to read your e-book

Read on line, download PDF, download e-reader app
Download mobi app, download PDF, read on line
download mobi app

Public Domain books

Books that were published before 1923 are automatically in the public domain and are usually free to download. That means classics like Plato's The Republic and all of Charles Dickens' work have versions available to download. Some may be free and others may charge as there is no copyright, allowing others to publish the work. There are several sites that offer these books and it's worth choosing a well formatted version.

One of the best places to begin is Project Gutenberg, which has a huge catalog of classic and rare books. You can find several versions of classic books here, so it's worth previewing them before downloading. Some versions may have a table of contents which makes reading easier to navigate and link automatically to chapters.

Another site Open Library, has over 1,000,000 free books, but also has a library of modern books that you can borrow for two weeks by registering an account.

Books should be free, is a site that offers free public domain books and audio books in over 20 languages. The site is very user friendly with genres broken down and the books are listed with their covers rather than just the title.

Public Domain books

HTML (read on line)
Project Gutenberg
Open Library
Feed Books
Books should be free

Public Domain books can vary in the quality of formatting. (Information correct at time of writing. Not all formats are listed or maybe available.)

E-readers | Source

Where do you read your e-book?

See results

Launches and reviews

Self-publishing has become a stepping stone for many writers to publish their work without having to go down the traditional route. There are several sites that offer books free when launched or in exchange for a review.

Smashwords, offers over 44,000 free books and is a popular platform for authors to distribute their books. You can keep books in your online library or download them.

Freado, is a site that offers new books in exchange for reviews. If you have social media accounts or a website to share the reviews and promote the book, it increases the books that will be available to you.

Goodreads, has an e-book shelf where authors offer their books for free. It's updated regularly and has over 8,000 titles.

Reading Deals is another good sites that offers limited time discounts and free books which is updated daily with a selection of genres.

To promote their books, authors offer their book free for a certain period of time or at a heavily discounted price. Often the deal may be for 24 hours only and is worth signing up for their daily deals. The reductions are genuine and sometimes the price will go up or the offer will end if the free downloads have been exceeded. These are some of the popular sites that offer bestsellers as well as launch prices. Book Bub, Book Gorilla, ebook Soda.

Most sites operate on a U.S Eastern time zone, so make sure you don't miss out as the 24 hour period is based on their timings.

Academic books

Students are turning to e-books to save them time and money. The classics are available online, and some sites offer textbooks as a free download. Bookboon offers a small selection of books and Open Stax College has just started an online resource of textbooks

Personal use only

The problem with e-books is that they can be easily shared and copied, though some copies are encoded to prevent this. The disclaimer in e-books is to protect the copyright holder and is standard. It may not stop people, but reminds them, that like a physical book, e-books have copyright protection.

'This e-book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This e-book may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each person.'

Just as you should not photocopy a physical book, nor should you make a copy of an e-book. However, on certain platforms you can loan an e-book to someone for a given period of time or transfer the same book to a different medium. Many people download it onto an e-reader and keep a copy in their cloud storage too.

E-books don't replace physical books, but they can reach a wider audience and can be stored indefinitely. I must admit, I still get a thrill when I buy a physical book in a sale and it's not the same as downloading an e-book.

The original mobile library
The original mobile library | Source

Books forever

There are some books, e-books can never replace. Photography books and art books, the ultimate coffee table books can never look the same online as they do in a physical format. The traditional bedtime story isn't the same, reading from a tablet or a laptop. It's part of the experience to read with a child and for the child to turn the pages and see the illustrations.

There are many other e-book sites and I have only listed a few of the popular ones that have a good selection and are easy to use. E-books have allowed people to enjoy works that they may not be able to afford or have access to and has made a cultural impact, allowing the masses to enjoy classic and rare books.

You may not get torn pages, the folded down corners, smudges or notes in the margin with an e-book, but these are the things that make a book unique. Turing a page is not the same as clicking a button or swiping, the satisfaction when you close a book after finishing is not the same as marking your last read place on an e-book or switching off the app.

E-books are an addition to physical books and are useful for traveling and saving space, but the traditional book will always remain. There is something nostalgic about looking through a bookcase and seeing what people choose to read and what books our ancestors chose to read.

© 2014 S T Alvyn


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    • Barbara Kay profile image

      Barbara Badder 

      7 years ago from USA

      Thanks for the info. Several of these sites I wasn't aware existed.


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